It's been an emotional week. I live just south of Birmingham, Ala., and although my neighborhood wasn't hit, I used to live in Tuscaloosa. I still have friends there, who all seem to be OK. When I see those pictures of devastation on TV, I can remember what it used to look like.
Yesterday, I spent a little time with my husband, HDT Contributing Editor Evan Lockridge on his Sirius XM show "The Lockridge Report," talking about the storms. We had posted a story on Truckinginfo.com about some of the close calls seen by area trucking companies and the Virginia truckstop that was hit by a tornado. But the stories from drivers who called in to tell about getting caught in the storm were even more harrowing.
"Bill," a flatbed driver, was trying to reach Knoxville when he decided to pull over because of the reports of tornadoes. The truckstop he chose was the Petro along I-81 in Glade Spring, Va., which was hit by one of the twisters. Over 300 tractor-trailers were overturned or destroyed by the storm, some thrown onto the freeway.
"I never do this, but I parked between two reefer trucks for wind blockage. It still moved my truck, and I'm almost 80,000 pounds." He said it didn't sound like a freight train, as many people compare the sound of tornadoes; "It was more like thunder on the ground, amplified 50 times."
The trucks right beside him were turned over, he said, and every truck appeared to have some damage even if it was still upright. "I saw two 2x4s driven into a sleeper," he said. "One truck driver was digging glass out of his pockets."
One driver caught on video the aftermath of the storm:
A couple of listeners sent in pictures of the devastation; you can view them on The Lockridge Report's Facebook page.
"The Dutchman" called in and said, "If I'd been 30 seconds faster, you and I would not be having this conversation."
He was heading into Ringgold, Ga., on I-75 just as the EF-4 tornado hit and killed at least eight people.
"I watched an 18-wheeler get picked up on the southbound side and get dropped into the northbound lanes," Dutchman said. "I ran over and checked on the driver, he was pretty shook up. I ran up the ramp ... I looked over at the other side of the ramp, the Ruby Tuesday, the hotels that were there, they just dropped like a house of cards. There were power lines down everywhere."
"Tumbleweed" came across I-20/59 from Louisiana Wednesday and wasn't aware of the storm until he started seeing tree damage close to the Mercedes plant between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. (A severe storm had ripped through the area in the early hours of the morning, but it was nothing compared to what was to come.) He stopped at the Petro just west of Birmingham to get fuel, but found there was no power, no fuel, fences and trees were down. So he headed to another truckstop east of town and settled down for the rest of the day.
"While I'm sitting there about 8:00, here come one ... it was horrible," he said. "The lightning and the rain; the CB radio was going crazy. No one knew where the tornado was at. You could hear it; you never could see it. Just very, very scary.
"Everybody was trying to figure out where they were going to go, and what they were going to do, because the truckstop there, all the glass windows, glass doors, everybody was afraid to go in there, then you're sittin' in your truck, you don't know whether that thing's going to hit the truckstop or whether you're going to get picked up in it, so everybody was scared to death."
Updated 4/29/11 3:50 p.m. EDT: Damaged trucks at Glad Spring Petro station revised up from 40 to 300.